The Portland Press Herald, Maine’s largest newspaper, filed an op-ed Sunday advocating the curious position that politicians have no control over monetary inflation, so voters shouldn’t concern themselves with complicated ideas like the destruction of the U.S. dollar’s value.
“When we act as if elected officials have responsibility for the host of economic variables that got us here,” the Herald’s editorial writers inveigh, assumably with their eyes closed, noses in the air, “we let the ungovernable distract us from the governable.”
Inflation, in the distinguished editorial board’s view, is something like an earthquake or a lightning strike, a natural phenomenon for which no blame may be assigned. Convenient, that. This idea of inflation as some mysterious, complex phenomenon that the common man cannot possibly understand is popping up more and more on the left. It’s a defense mechanism to avoid confronting the reality that we are now dealing with the consequences of intemperate money printing and backward energy policies.
Two decades of debt-financed spending sprees — Middle East wars, socialized health care, pandemic “relief,” and more — was bound to have a downside. But if you live in a fairy tale world where there is no ill consequence to conjuring money from thin air for whatever social justice project or war you’re supporting in the current moment, understanding inflation as a man-made disaster would be unsettling. Instead, the cheerleaders for more government, like the Herald’s editorialists, will simply scratch their heads in befuddlement, wondering about the “host of economic variables” that led to inflation and skyrocketing prices.
The longterm cause of the current inflation crisis can be viewed in one chart of the M2 money supply from the St. Louis Fed. Put simply, the U.S. dollar is worth less because a bipartisan group of government actors, including former Republican President Donald Trump, Democratic President Joe Biden, and hundreds of Members of Congress, thought it was a good idea to create trillions in new dollars from thin air using debt and accounting gimmicks. Voters who are concerned with inflation might choose to support candidates who don’t vote in favor of spending money that doesn’t exist, regardless of how popular doing so might be.
Gov. Janet Mills, who seems to be the motivation for the Herald’s views on inflation, can’t be held responsible for federal spending. Not entirely. One might argue that with a little foresight Mills might have used her position as a government official to warn against unbridled money printing. She might have refused the Federal dollars, as former Gov. Paul LePage has done in the past, or lobbied Maine’s congressional delegation to oppose the spending. She could even have urged fellow governors to take a hardline against the money printing. But that’s like asking a skunk to changes its stripes.
Mills was all too eager to accept debt-financed federal dollars during COVID-19, sprinkling piles of cash like fairy dust over her favored constituencies. As Election Day nears, every other email from the Governor’s Office touts another tranche of debt dollars shoveled into more voters’ pockets. (Notably, the op-ed about inflation fails to mention Mills signature anti-inflation policy — giving away $850 debt dollars to every Mainer, a move that will do little to rein in inflation.)
Beyond the loose monetary and fiscal policy that is eroding the value of the dollar, Mills and her Democrat colleagues surely deserve some blame for skyrocketing energy prices, regardless of the poppycock about “Putin’s Price Hike.” For nearly five decades, left-wing Democrats, including here in Maine, have advocated for energy policies that drive up costs and retard economic growth. Energy costs, driven higher by environmental policies, only compound the harm caused by a devalued U.S. dollar. To the extent a politician has supported policies that limit energy supplies and increase costs, it is entirely fair for a voter to blame them for tightening household budgets resulting from inflation.
I suppose there is an audience for the Herald’s peculiar form of wishcasting at meetings for the Democratic Socialists of America’s Portland chapter, but poll after poll suggests inflation will be top of mind next Tuesday, as it should be.